Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MSD Lick Run Project : IS demo at this early stage necessary?

The MSD Lick Run project has great benefit not only to Fairmount and the West side but the City of Cincinnati as well. On May 2nd a letter went out advising that:

"Although this project is still in the early stages, property is being purchased now to facilitate compliance with MSD obligation to the US EPA and Ohio EPA. MSD must implement a solution by 2018 and property acquisition can take many years."
 
MSD goes on to say that properties will be maintained but ultimately will demolish the structures.

So 2018 to come up with a solution? There are several options floating about,  public forums to be held etc. That is what makes this next line of the letter most disturbing:

"Structures on nine properties in South Fairmount (eight along Queen City Avenue between White Street and Quebec and one property on Quebec) are scheduled to be torn down this spring. A more detailed letter will e sent out to adjacent property owners two weeks prior to the demolition. As new properties are acquired more demolitions will be planned"
The opening salvo of the MSD project proposes to demo all of these properties at this early stage YEARS Before a plan is decided?

HOLD THE FORT! No mention of section 106 review in this letter. I immediately contacted Mary Lynn Lodor at MSD via email marylynn.lodor@cincinnati-oh.gov with my concerns, and recieved this email back with their response:

"MSD in in the process of conducting the 106 review of the referenced structures as part of that review public input will be collected".

She went on to offer to set up a conference call to discuss this. TRANSLATION? Oops we  thought we could quietly do this.

Section 106  review is a public process . I contacted L:arry Harris who had not been contacted so just HOW is this 106 review being done and by whom?  Where is that public transparency where state and Federal money is being used?
Just one of the proposals but probably the favorite , results in demo of the entire N side of Westwood Blvd!

I understand the need for this project, I understand potential benefits but we ARE NOT going to demo everything to do it. Section 106 review will requires that MSD do studies on relocating  significant structures for example. Do you think anybody as MSD planned on that? While this current batch has nothing 'earth shattering" there are viable structures that could be moved for slightly more than the cost to demo them and the City or county own land close-by. In fact the FEDS expect that some properties should be saved and generally expect to see allowances made for such moves and there are often resources for those moves.

This home is largely intact, has significant historic detail and likely meets the Historic eligibility requirement. A frame structure like this is viable for relocation and city and county own lots nearby.
In other works, yes this is an important a project but NO you wont be bulldozing everything in sight to do it. Once again the city dangles pretty drawings out there and expects the community to simply roll over and say OK, perhaps the South Fairmount Community Council is impressed but I and others need some commitments.

This historic photo shows Westwood Blvd. The towered Queen Ann (lower right)is still standing, Historically significant and is a prime candidate for relocation
In my view this is what has to happen:

1. First PUBLIC HEARINGS: Section 106 reviews where community input will be gathered not submitted and decisions made in some smoke filled room but as a matter of public record.

2. Adequate notification at each phase.2 weeks prior to demo is NOT going to fly. There are resources to save some of these buildings and we need time to explore that. There is NO HURRY to demo at this stage

3. Commitments by MSD that some significant properties will be relocated.

4. Historic overlay protections for property across from this development be established with Historic Commision review of any demolitions. That will require city council involvement

Those who attended Dave Zelman's Talk at CPA earlier this year may recall this house, Perhaps one of the earliest houses in Fairmount, due to the fact its Brick and large it is probably not viable to move but we should at least explore the possibility.
This project makes sense but NOT if investors come in clearcut the historic fabric across the street and build strip centers. There MUST be protections for adjacent properties and if there isn't? Well Knox Hill and others who are affected can tie this up in litigation for years. With exhaustive 106 review appeals at state and federal level. In short this will not be Euclid in Corryville, this will not be CPS bulldozing McMicken and there will be no back room deals and looking the other way. This is Federal Funds and the standards will be high.and transparency will be expected OR our local congressman will be informed.

If you have concerns about this project you should contact marylynn.lodor@cincinnati-oh.gov and ask to be put on a notification list on thsi project as well as 106 review notifications.

More info is available at www.projectgroundwork.org/lickrun

This is just the opening round of this and we need to establish expectations NOW!

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